Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Secretly Selective Tolerance: Intellectual Protection Racket #38


The modern version of tolerance, popular in the general culture, goes beyond the classical version in claiming that one should not even judge that other people's viewpoints are wrong.

How does this view square with relativism? It is not at all clear. For one thing, this principle of tolerance does not follow from cultural relativism. From the  fact that cultures differ in basic ethical judgments, no moral duties whatever follow.

Second, normative relativism implies that one ought to be tolerant if the principle of tolerance is in that person's social code and one ought to be intolerant if the principle of intolerance is in that person's social code. So the morality of tolerance does not clearly follow from normative or meta-ethical relativism for that matter.

Normative relativism does allow for the principle of tolerance, but it also allows for the principle of intolerance in the same way.

Combinatorial relativism does in fact imply that we ought not to pass judgment on the freely chosen understanding of the good life of others. But since some forms of "the good life" are actually worthless or less valuable than others, this feature of combinatorial relativism is a vice and not a virtue.

Finally, the moral duty to be tolerant does not follow from ethical skepticism because no moral duties whatever follow from ethical skepticism. It seems, then, that the modern notion of tolerance is not an easy fit with different versions of relativism, in spite of what many people think.

--J. P. Moreland & William Craig, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, revised 2017 edition, page 433.


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